Sunday, December 2, 2012 #

My collection of favourite TFS utilities

So, you’re in charge of your company or team’s Team Foundation Server.  Wish it was easier to manage, administer, extend?  Well, here are a few utilities that I highly recommend looking at.

I’ve recently had need to rebuild my laptop and upgrade my local TFS environment to TFS 2012 Update 1.  This gave me cause to enumerate some of the utilities I like to have on hand.

One of the reasons I love to use TFS on projects is that it’s basically a complete ALM toolkit.  Everything from Task Management, Version Control, Build Management, Test Management, Metrics and Reporting are all there ‘in the box’.  However, no matter how complete a product set it, there are always ways to make it better.  Here are a list of utilities and libraries that are pretty generally useful.  this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of TFS extensions but rather a set that I recommend you look at.  There are many more out there that may be applicable in one scenario or another.  This set of tools should work with TFS 2012 or 2010 if you grab the right version.

Most of these tools (and more) are available from the Visual Studio Gallery or CodePlex.

General

TFS Power Tools – This is ‘the’ collection of utilities and extensions delivered by the Product Group.  Highly recommended from here are the Best Practice Analyzer for ensuring your TFS implementation is healthy and the Team Foundation Server Backups to ensure your TFS databases are backed up correctly.

TFS Administrators Toolkit – helps make updates to work item types and reports across many team projects.  Also provides visibility of disk usage by finding large files in version control or test attachments to assist in managing storage utilization.

Version Control

Git-TF - a set of cross-platform, command line tools that facilitate sharing of changes between TFS and Git. These tools allow a developer to use a local Git repository, and configure it to share changes with a TFS server.  Great for all Git lovers who must integrate into a TFS repository.

Testing

TFS 2012 Tester Power Tool – A utility for bulk copying test cases which assists in an approach for managing test cases across multiple releases.  A little plug that this utility was written and maintained by Anna Russo of Imaginet where I also work.

Test Scribe - A documentation power tool designed to construct documents directly from the TFS for test plan and test run artifacts for the purpose of discussion, reporting etc.

Reporting

Community TFS Report Extensions - a single repository of SQL Server Reporting Services report for Team Foundation 2010 (and above).  Check out the Test Plan Status report by Imaginet’s Steve St. Jean.  Very valuable for your test managers.

Builds

TFS Build Manager – A great utility if you are build manager over a complex build environment with many TFS build definitions.

Community TFS Build Extensions – contains many custom build activities.  Current release binaries are for TFS 2010 but many of the activities can be recompiled for use with TFS 2012.

While compiling this list, I was surprised by the number of TFS utilities and extensions I no longer use/need in TFS 2012 because of the great work by the TFS team addressing many gaps since the 2010 release.

Are there any utilities you depend on that I’ve missed?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Posted On Sunday, December 2, 2012 5:52 PM | Comments (3)

Sunday, November 18, 2012 #

Some of my favourite Visual Studio 2012 things–Teams

Getting the balance right for when and how many team projects to create has always been a bit of a balance.  On large initiatives, there are often teams who work toward a common system.  These teams often have quite a bit of autonomy, but need to roll up to some higher level initiative.  In TFS 2010, people were often tempted to create separate Team Projects for each of the sub-teams and then do some magic with reporting and cross-team queries to get the consolidated view.  My recommendation was always to use Areas as a means of separating work across the team, but that always resulted in a large number of queries that need to be maintained and just seemed confusing.  When doing anything you had to remember to filter the query or view by Area in order to get correct results.

Along with the awesome web access portal that comes in TFS 2012 (which I will cover details of in another post) the product group has introduced the concept of Teams.  A team is a sub-group within a TFS 2012 Team Project which allows us to more easily divide work along team boundaries.

Technically, a Team is defined by an Area Path and a TFS Group, both of which could be done in TFS 2012.  However, by allowing for creation of a ‘Team’ in TFS 2012, the web portal is able to do a bunch of ‘magic’ for us.  We can view the project site (backlog, taskboard, etc) for the the team, we can assign items to the team and we can view the burndown for the team.  Basically, all the stuff that we had to prepare manually we now get created and managed for us with a nice UI.

When you create a Team Project in TFS 2012, a ‘Default’ team is created with the same name as the Team Project.  So, if you only have 1 team working on the project, you are set.  If you want to divide the work into additional teams, you can create teams by using the Team Web Client.

Teams are created using the ‘Administer Server’ icon in the top right of the web site.

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You can select the team site by using the team chooser:

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Once you have selected a team, the Product Backlog, TaskBoard, Burndown Charts, etc. are all filtered to that team.

NOTE: You always have the ability to choose the ‘Default’ team to see items for the entire project.

PS: It’s been a long while since I shared on this blog.  To help with that I’m in a blogging challenge with some other developer and agilist friends.  Please check out their blogs as well:

Steve Rogalsky: http://winnipegagilist.blogspot.ca

Dylan Smith: http://www.geekswithblogs.net/optikal

Tyler Doerkson: http://blog.tylerdoerksen.com

David Alpert: http://www.spinthemoose.com

Dave White: http://www.agileramblings.com

 

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Posted On Sunday, November 18, 2012 8:20 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, June 22, 2012 #

MS Marketing Strategy

I found this week’s Windows Phone 8 event interesting.  Not just because it looks like some fantastic new features in the new OS but because of the wait for release.  If I were a Nokia shareholder (which I am not) I’d be very unhappy with MS announcing that Windows Phone 8 will NOT work with current hardware.  So, there are some very nice Lumia devices that are now end-of-life that have arrived relatively recently at carriers and retailers.

I understand that MS needs to demonstrate progress against iOS and Android and that there is some Windows 8 tie-in that they are trying to capitalize (and MS IS still all about Windows).  However, it’s a bit of a kick to partners that have invested in the platform with pretty decent devices (Samsung, HTC and of course Nokia).

Personally, I’m still using a Samsung Foucs.  I was seriously considering upgrading to a Lumia 900 (we just got Lync mobile available) but will now wait it out until new devices arrive with Windows 8.  If MS had waited to announce, I would happily have upgraded to the Lumia and when I found out it couldn’t be upgraded then that would be a gamble I took and lost and I’d live with it.  Now, however, I can see the future and know that waiting is the better option for me so that is 1 sale Nokia will miss out on.  Based on some chats I’ve seen on mobile forums I’m certainly far from the only one.

I’m sure glad I’m not in charge of marketing at MS.  There are tough decisions to be made there and I’m pretty sure you piss somebody off regardless.

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Posted On Friday, June 22, 2012 8:06 AM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 #

Windows 8? - Keep Calm and Carry On

 

Last week I attended Build Windows conference and have been spending a considerable amount of time thinking how things have changed for developers.

The initial reaction from most people was “Oh My God” with all the focus on WinRT and Metro UI and little mention of .Net, Silverlight, WPF, etc.  You could almost feel the equal parts panic and excitement racing through the crowd.

I was fortunate enough to have brought along my “Keep Calm and Carry On” T-Shirt to Anaheim.  I wore it on Wednesday as it seemed to sum up my feelings on the topic.

1. .Net didn’t die.  Nor did Silverlight, WPF, etc.  In fact, there were some great new features introduced.

2. Desktop Applications didn’t die.  Even during one of the general sessions, they stressed that an application like PhotoShop probably will continue to exist as a desktop application.

3. WinRT/Metro are new, but familiar for developers.  I like the fact that my existing C# and XAML skills (as limited as they might be) are still relevant on the new touch-centric platform.   I completely understand why WinRT has been implemented as native code.  This stuff needs to run effectively and efficiently on a low power device.

4. THIS IS A DEVELOPER PREVIEW.  I suspect we will see a lot of improvement in both the stability and the experience moving forward.

So, what is my message to my developers upon return from Build?

1. Check out the developer preview, but don’t assume that Windows 8 will end up exactly like this.

2. Investigate and experiment with Metro UI applications.  Heck, let’s get some queued up for when that app store opens up!!  There are many applications that will be great candidates to take advantage of the Metro / touch centric UI.  And, hey, it’s still using the languages we know and love (as opposed to the other touch platforms).

3. Don’t change what you are doing, or the advice you are giving on Line of Business applications.  The majority of the type of development we do won’t change in Windows 8.  We  primarily develop complex line of business applications with functionally rich user interfaces.  This type of application likely doesn’t directly translate to Metro UI.  DO, however, consider Metro UI as an alternate, mobile/touch-friendly user experience for you applications.  This is no different than what we might do today with an iPad or Android user experience.

I see Windows 8 as ‘virtually’ two operating systems that share a kernel.  The Metro experience which will be dominant on slate type devices, and the desktop mode which will be dominant within most workplaces.  I think we will see some improvements to help us stay in one context or the other and not have the awkward switching where I find myself in a Metro UI application with my mouse and keyboard (and no touch screen) or on the desktop when I’m on a slate with my fat fingers.  If Microsoft can provide some profile configuration so that I can control which is my preferred style per device or in different contexts (slate docked or not) then I think I’ll quite enjoy this new Windows.

In short, my take on Windows 8 is “Stay Calm and Carry On”.  Don’t get paralyzed by the new things and continue to deliver the best value you can with the tools at your disposal.  Continue to move your software architectures forward and envision MANY usage scenarios for you applications on different devices and form factors including, but not limited to MetroUI.

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Posted On Tuesday, September 20, 2011 5:39 PM | Comments (0)

Friday, August 19, 2011 #

August 11 TFS Power Tools Released

The August ‘11 TFS Power Tools are ready for download.

Brian Harry has a good summary of the update here.

The big visible changes are:

1. The ability to use the shell extensions against a TFS not on the same domain as your PC.  You now get a credentials prompt.

2. Work Item Search!!  The Work Item Tracking toolbar now contains a search box.  I know my friend and fellow MVP Etienne Tremblay has been asking for this for about 5 years!

3. Rollback IN THE UI!!  TFS 2010 introduced rollback.  However, you had to use the command line to do it.  Due to this I know many people that didn’t even know it existed.  The Power Tools now add this capability right into the Source Control Explorer or Version History window.

There are a bunch of other things you can look up in Brian’s blog.

So, what are you waiting for?  Grab it HERE!

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Posted On Friday, August 19, 2011 10:09 AM | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 15, 2011 #

Updated Visual Studio 2010 RTM Virtual Machine Available

Microsoft has released an updated virtual machine for Visual Studio 2010 RTM including TFS, Microsoft Test Manager, all the bits.  Also includes sample projects and hands on labs.

The previous version expires June 1st, this one is good until November 1st, 2011.

As usual Brian Keller has all the details including download instructions!

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Posted On Sunday, May 15, 2011 9:16 PM | Comments (0)

Monday, April 4, 2011 #

TFS Build Explorer Folders–Finally

If you have a lot of TFS build definitions for your projects, its been a bit of a hassle that there is no way to organize and manage them in Team Explorer other than a long flat list.

Well, the good folks at Inmeta have released the Inmeta Build Explorer tool which displays build definitions in a hierarchy where names use a . notation to delineate the hierarchy.

Since most folks have been implementing a naming standard for builds which at least organize build definitions for ordering, this doesn’t seem like too big a limitation to me.

Jakob Ehn has a good post on it here.

Download the Inmeta Build Explorer from the Visual Studio Gallery today!

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Posted On Monday, April 4, 2011 12:20 PM | Comments (1)

Friday, April 1, 2011 #

Renewed as VS ALM MVP!

I was happy to receive this email today:

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Thanks to the great folks at Imaginet and Notion Solutions for all your help and support over the last year.

Also, thanks to the MS Product group for being such a great team to engage with.  Looking forward to continued interaction over the coming year.

 

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Posted On Friday, April 1, 2011 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 #

Happy Day! VS2010 SP1, Project Server Integration, Load Test Feature Pack

Microsoft released a PILE of Visual Studio goodness today:

Visual Studio 2010 SP1(Including TFS SP1)

Finally done with remembering which GDR packs, KB Patches, etc need to be installed with a new VS/TFS 2010 deployment.  Just grab the SP1.  It’s available today for MSDN Subscribers and March 10th for public download.

TFS-Project Server Integration Feature Pack

MSDN Subscribers got another little treat today with the TFS-Project Server integration feature pack.  We can now get project rollups and portfolio level management with Project Server yet still have the tight developer interaction with TFS.  Finally we can make the PMO happy without duplicate entry or MS Project gymnastics.

Visual Studio Load Test Feature Pack

This is a new benefit for Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate subscribers.  Previously there was a limit to Ultimate Load Testing of 250 virtual users. If you needed more, you had to buy virtual user license packs.  No more.  Now your Visual Studio Ultimate license allows you to simulate as many virtual users as you need!!  This is HUGE in improving adoption of regular load testing for development projects.

All the Details are available from Soma’s blog.

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Posted On Tuesday, March 8, 2011 9:34 AM | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 26, 2011 #

Winnipeg Code Camp EF4 Resources

I had fun presenting “What’s new in Entity Framework 4” at the Winnipeg Code Camp today.

I mentioned some resources on my deck that I thought I’d include here in my blog.

•EF 4.0 Hands on Labs

EF CTP  5 (has the new DbContext and CodeFirst support)

 

MSDN Data Developer Center: MSDN.com/Data

ADO.NET Team Blog

EF Design Blog

How to choose an inheritance strategy

Book cover of Programming Entity Framework

Programming Entity Framework, Second Edition by Julia Lerman

Posted On Saturday, February 26, 2011 5:48 PM | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2010 #

ALM Summit and Power To The People

So, I’ve been attending the ALM Summit Conference this week on Microsoft Campus in Redmond.  It was feeling a bit like “Intro to Agile” Conference as we got the 100 Level Agile overview at the start of almost every session.

As a result I tweeted and included the #almsummit hastag

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Well, that started a lot of tweets from folks feeling the same way.  They also stressed that they wanted more depth, practices, dialogue.

Here’s the impressive thing.  Eric Willeke (@erwilleke) who was supposed to present right after lunch was following the twitter hashtag and took proactive action and worked with the conference organizers and they actually CHANGED the agenda and substituted an ALM Dojo session in place of his talk.

Moral of the story, if you  a participant in some event are dissatisfied with what’s going on, don’t just silently put up with it.  As a conference organizer, learn from the #ALMSummit folks and be prepared to adapt, after all, the conference is for the attendees, not the presenters.

I feel bad that Eric didn’t get to deliver his talk, but feel he did the absolute right thing and deserves TOP marks for ensuring they he added the most value he could to the attendees.

Posted On Thursday, November 18, 2010 11:02 AM | Comments (1)

Saturday, November 6, 2010 #

Loving O’Reilly eBooks

Notifications of subsequent publications with Errata fixes.

Programming Entity Framework, Second EditionGot an email this week from O’Reilly stating that an updated version of Julia Lerman’s Programming Entity Framework, Second Edition was available.  How sweet is that?

I love that I can carry around a decent sized library of books with me on my iPad.  I use it almost exclusively as my reading tool.  I only buy ‘print’ books when a electronic version is not available.  This latest ‘feature’ of downloading the updated version for FREE is just an added bonus!

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Posted On Saturday, November 6, 2010 8:22 AM | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 19, 2010 #

Visual Studio LightSwitch Beta 1 available on MSDN subscriber downloads

 

There goes my weekend Smile

Posted On Thursday, August 19, 2010 8:53 AM | Comments (0)

Simplified Disaster Recovery for TFS 2010

Microsoft just announced new Power Tool for TFS 2010 which greatly simplifies setting up backups and performing restores.  Can’t wait for this new release.

Brian Harry shares all the details on his blog post so I won’t get into all the details here.  I will say, however, that this is another GREAT step from the TFS team at Microsoft to simplify the administration and maintenance.  The barriers to adoption just keep getting knocked down.

(UPDATE) Brian’s new post indicates that this Power Tool also manages the Sharepoint and reporting databases.  Awesome.

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Posted On Thursday, August 19, 2010 4:00 AM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 #

Team Foundation Server on Stack Exchange needs your help!

There is a proposed site for Team Foundation Server Q&A on Stack Exchange Area 51 that could use your help.  We need more people to commit to using the site in order to get from Proposed status to full site.

If you see value in having a Stack Exchange location dedicated to TFS Q&A, please go and Commit here: http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/15894/visual-studio-alm

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Posted On Wednesday, August 18, 2010 2:12 AM | Comments (0)